MUTARE – A senior human rights lawyer has warned Zimbabwean journalists that they risk facing criminal prosecution under international law if they propagate hate language and support violation of human rights.
Tinoziva Bere, a Mutare – based lawyer, told journalists attending an elections reporting workshop held in this eastern border city that journalists who support violations of human rights and the murder of citizens should not only be prepared to face sanctions but should face criminal prosecution under international law.
“Any journalist who supports violations of human rights and the murder of citizens should not only face sanctions from the United States but should face criminal prosecution,” Bere said.
He was responding to a question on whether it was appropriate for the United States to slap travel sanctions on journalists.
Some Zimbabwean journalists from the government-controlled media have been put on travel sanctions along with President Mugabe and his top lieutenants in Zanu PF for not respecting human rights.
Some of the affected journalists include Pilkirayi Deketeke, Ceazer Zvayi, Munyaradzi Huni all from Zimpapers and Rueben Barwe and Judith Makwanya from the public broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. The journalists are accused of complicity in the violations of human rights in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have been accused of violating human rights since 2000 when a serious political challenge to unseat the 85-year old former guerilla leader was mounted by the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai is now Prime Minister under a political settlement reached at so as to ease mounting tensions caused by a flawed presidential run – off held on June 27 last year.
Human rights campaigners estimate about 100 MDC activists and sympathizers were murdered in cold blood during the campaign but such horrendous acts were never exposed in the State controlled media. Instead, newspapers under the Zimpapers stable and the ZBC sought to cover up the violent acts.
Bere said journalists should instead take a leading role in defending the rights of citizens instead of supporting and covering up acts of violence and violations of human rights.
Journalists and media executives from the central African country of Rwanda are serving lengthy jail terms after they were convicted by an international tribunal trying genocide suspects in Arusha, Tanzania.
The journalists and media owners were accused of using their newspapers and radio stations to fan the genocide that saw close to a million Rwandans from the Tutsi ethnic group being slaughtered between April and July of 1994 in Rwanda.